The Spiritual Disciplines: Stewardship/Giving and Tithing

February 25, 2014

by Peter Amsterdam

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Understanding the principle of ownership—that God owns everything, and that we are caretakers of what He has entrusted us with—should encourage us to look to His example regarding how to share what He has placed in our care. As His stewards, we are expected to use what is His in alignment with His nature and His will.

God’s Generosity

Throughout the Bible we read about God’s generous and gracious giving.

He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.[1] I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.[2]

As our Father He gives us good things,[3] good and perfect gifts,[4] our heart’s desire[5] and what we ask for when these align with His will,[6] His peace,[7] wisdom,[8] and grace.[9]

Motivated by His love for humanity, God gave His Son, Jesus, for our salvation,[10] and He gave Himself to redeem us.[11] We’re given the water of life,[12] the free gift of God.[13] He has lavished upon us forgiveness, redemption, and grace.[14] He has also poured His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us[15] as a guarantee.[16] We’ve also been given the gifts of the Spirit, which are distributed according to His will.[17]

Understanding God’s generous nature as the owner of all things guides us in our attitude toward giving. As the children of such a generous Father, we should want to follow His example. Knowing that we are stewards of God’s possessions and that He wants us to be generous with what He has put into our care should help us develop the attitude of cheerful and generous giving, both when giving to the Lord through our tithes and offerings as well as when giving to others.

When we give of our finances to the Lord and others, we give honor to God.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.[18]

When the apostle Paul wrote about the gifts the Philippians had given toward the Lord’s work, he likened the giving to an act of worship. He called the gifts a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.[19] He was comparing the gifts given to God’s work by the believers in Philippi to the sacrifices burnt in the Temple as worship to God.[20] The book of Hebrews speaks of sharing what you have as a sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.[21]

Giving is an act of worshipping God.

Giving with Gratefulness

Recently I took some time to think about why Maria and I tithe ten percent of our monthly income and the gifts we receive, instead of just looking at it as a duty or something which we have personally committed to doing. Rather than just tithing and giving gifts to others as a routine, I reflected on the meaning behind it, the significance of giving to the Lord. I thought about how blessed I’ve been to know the Lord for over two-thirds of my life, about all the blessings I’ve received, our children and grandchildren, how privileged I’ve been to serve Him, about the difficult times He’s pulled us through, and times of joy and happiness we’ve experienced. Spending time in praise and thanksgiving when returning a portion of what the Lord has given us this past month made giving our tithe much more meaningful to me. It wasn’t just a duty; it was an offering of thankfulness for His love and care for us. I’ve also started looking at what we give to missionaries, as well as to the poor and needy that we come in contact with, in the same way.

So often we can look at tithing as we do paying taxes. We expect to get services from our church or fellowship, or from God as payback for our tithes in the same way that we expect our governments to provide roads, schools, etc. But this isn’t what tithing is about. Tithing is an expression of our love and gratitude toward God and an act of praise, thanksgiving, and worship.

Our giving to God or others is meant to come from the heart. We shouldn’t be giving grudgingly or out of duty because we feel we have to; rather we should give because we want to, from a place of thankfulness and praise in response to God’s love for us.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.[22]

Donald Whitney expressed the reason for giving cheerfully when he wrote:

When you think of how God has given you the greatest possible gift in His Son, Jesus Christ, when you think of the mercy and grace He has given you, when you think of how He has provided all you have, and when you think that you are giving to God, you should be able to give thankfully and cheerfully.[23]

When Giving Is Difficult

It’s often hard to tithe and give to others when we’re just making ends meet and don’t feel like there’s anything extra. It’s especially difficult to give when we genuinely don’t even have enough for our own needs.

The apostle Paul wrote about the Macedonian believers who, though impoverished, gave generously and joyously toward those in need.

Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in His kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.[24]

We see a similar situation of those with very little still giving in the Gospel of Mark, when he tells of Jesus sitting across from the “treasury,” the 13 collection boxes which were placed along the court of the women within the temple complex in Jerusalem. He watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”[25]

When Jesus stated that the minuscule amount the poor widow gave—the equivalent of 1/64th of a laborer’s daily wage of one denarius—was more than the large sums given by the rich, He was making a profound point. Why was her gift considered to be more? Because of what it cost her. She gave all she had to live on, while the rich gave from their abundance. She didn’t have any extra finances to fall back on; the rich did. Her giving was not only sacrificial, it also showed her faith in God’s supply, provision, and care. Stepping out on a limb, she sawed it off in an act of love for God. She gave sacrificially and trusted in God’s faithfulness to provide for her. Jesus saw her willingness to sacrificially give to God and her faith in His care as being more valuable than what the rich had given. Giving sacrificially out of love, giving generously because of faith in God’s love and care for you, is the kind of giving Jesus was commending.

We can also take heart from more recent examples of Christians who gave in leaner times, such as William Carey:

I was once young and now I am old, but not once have I been witness to God’s failure to supply my need when first I had given for the furtherance of Hiswork. He has never failed in His promise, so I cannot fail in my service to Him.[26]

Systematic Giving

When speaking about giving, Paul told the church in Corinth:

Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.[27]

He was suggesting that giving should be planned out and done systematically. For our tithes, offerings, and giving to others, it’s best to develop a system of setting aside what we plan to give; otherwise it’s easy to put it off and then have to scramble at the last minute to come up with the funds when it’s time to tithe. You can follow Paul’s suggestion of setting aside money on the first day of the week, or each time you receive some income, so that it will be available when it’s time to give to God. However you do it, being systematic helps to ensure that you have your tithe available when it’s time to present it to Him.

Along with being systematic in giving, Paul makes the point that the funds set aside should be in keeping with our income,[28] or as it says in other Bible translations, as he prospers. The expectation is that we will give in proportion to our income. If our income grows, our tithe and giving should grow with it. Whitney writes:

The more you prosper, the higher should be the proportion of your giving. There is no percentage goal in giving. Giving 10 percent of your gross income does not necessarily mean you have fulfilled the will of God. That’s not a ceiling of giving to stop at, but a floor to move from.[29]

Some wealthy Christians, or those who have a high income but few expenses, practice inverse tithing, or a form of it, where instead of giving ten percent to God and living on the other ninety percent, they live on the ten percent and give the ninety. As Paul wrote, we should give in keeping with how the Lord has prospered us.

Results of Giving

What is the effect of giving generously to God and others? God’s blessings in your life. Jesus said:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.[30]

When we give, we receive. Our generosity is met by God’s generosity. It doesn’t necessarily mean that when you give financially you will receive more finances in return, as what is given as a result of your giving is unspecified. But the promise of God’s blessing is there. Paul reinforced what Jesus taught when he wrote:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.[31]

Sir John Templeton, Chairman of Templeton Funds, offered the following observation:

I have observed 100,000 families over my years of investment counseling. I always saw greater prosperity and happiness among those families who tithed than among those who didn’t.

In addition to expressing the principle of reaping what you sow, Paul also speaks of other spiritual principles regarding giving in Second Corinthians chapter nine. He begins with:

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.[32]

We are encouraged to give willingly and joyfully from our hearts, as this is something that God loves. Paul then tells us of God’s ability to bless us for cheerfully giving so that we will have not only what we need, but plenty left over to share with others:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.[33]

Paul continues:

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.[34]

This is the reassurance that God, who supplies our needs, will provide and increase our resources, which will make it possible for us to be even more generous. The result of God supplying for us, and us giving to others, will be people thanking and praising God.

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.[35]

Besides thanking God for supplying their needs through us, the people who have benefited from our generosity will also pray for us with deep affection.

And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.[36]

The decision you make to be cheerfully generous in your giving can start a chain reaction of events. God may bless you by supplying your needs so you have extra to share with others, which would then make it possible for you to be even more generous, resulting in those who have been helped by your giving thanking God and also potentially praying for you. All of this gives glory to God. It’s a win-win situation. Paul expresses it this way:

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift![37]

Giving to God and others goes hand in hand with being a good caretaker of all the Lord has given you. He may want to bless others through His funds which you manage. His way of meeting the need of a certain missionary might be through your giving; perhaps He wants to bless those running an orphanage or school for the poor through you. Your giving to the Lord through your tithe is a means of helping the Gospel to be preached. Those who tithe to their church help support their church and its ministries. Those who tithe to TFI help make it possible for members around the world to receive regular spiritual feeding, to have resources for spiritually feeding and teaching new converts in their local languages, and for missionaries to receive grants and gifts. Your giving to the Lord through your tithe makes it possible for Him to benefit others through the church or organization you tithe to.

Commitment and Attitude Check

Regularly and systematically sharing some of what God has put in your care requires making a commitment and following through consistently. Systematic giving calls for trust that God will provide for you, even during times when your giving requires a leap of faith. Being a cheerful giver stems from having the right relationship with possessions and developing an inner attitude about giving that reflects that relationship. It’s comprehending that you are an agent of the Lord, that you are giving on His behalf, and that you have been given the privilege of representing Him to others, both practically and spiritually.

Early last year, I realized that I wasn’t a cheerful giver when it came to some beggars who are outside a grocery store that I regularly shop at. I found myself grumbling every time I went to the store, because I knew I was going to see the beggars and feel compelled to give to them. The Lord convicted me about my attitude. He reminded me how blessed I am to know Him, that He has always supplied for me, and that rather than feeling negative about it, I should be happy for the opportunity to give, as He loves those beggars and wants to help them through me. That changed my outlook and attitude about giving. I’m determined to give cheerfully as unto the Lord and be thankful for the privilege of representing Him to others in that way.

We’ve been given the honor of knowing the Lord, of receiving His blessings, of being agents of His love and salvation to others. He has given us the greatest gift there is: eternal life through Jesus. He loves us, provides for us, and sustains us. Because of our love for Him and gratitude to Him, we are asked to be cheerful and generous as we give back to Him through our tithes, and through the gifts we give to others. In making the commitment to tithe and give, and keeping that commitment, we honor and worship Him, and are in alignment with what Jesus said is the great commandment:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.[38]

As the apostle Paul said,

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”[39]


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Acts 17:25.

[2] Genesis 1:29.

[3] Matthew 7:11.

[4] James 1:17.

[5] Psalm 37:4.

[6] Matthew 7:7.

[7] John 14:27.

[8] James 1:5.

[9] Ephesians 4:7.

[10] John 3:16.

[11] Titus 2:14.

[12] John 4:14.

[13] Romans 6:23.

[14] Ephesians 1:7–8.

[15] Romans 5:5.

[16] 2 Corinthians 1:22.

[17] Hebrews 2:4; 1 Corinthians 12.

[18] Proverbs 3:9.

[19] Philippians 4:18.

[20] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1991), 142.

[21] Hebrews 13:16.

[22] 2 Corinthians 9:7.

[23] Whitney, Disciplines, 148.

[24] 2 Corinthians 8:1–5 NLT.

[25] Mark 12:41–44.

[26] William Carey (1761–1834), Baptist missionary to India.

[27] 1 Corinthians 16:1–2 NIV.

[28] 1 Corinthians 16:2 NIV.

[29] Whitney, Disciplines, 151.

[30] Luke 6:38 NIV.

[31] 2 Corinthians 9:6.

[32] 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV.

[33] 2 Corinthians 9:8 NAS.

[34] 2 Corinthians 9:10 NIV.

[35] 2 Corinthians 9:11–13 NIV.

[36] 2 Corinthians 9:14 NIV.

[37] 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV.

[38] Matthew 22:37–39.

[39] Acts 20:35.